A lack of a clear and comprehensive standard operating procedures was the main cause of a hot air balloon accident in Taitung County last year that badly injured one person on the ground, the Aviation Safety Council said last week as it wrapped up a seven-month investigation into the accident on May 18 last year.
The accident occurred as a Cameron C-90 balloon belonging to the county government, carrying a pilot and two passengers, was preparing to land behind the Yongan Senior Activity Center in Luye Township (鹿野).
The pilot was trying to maneuver the balloon to avoid barbed wires and betel trees. A member of the ground crew grabbed one of the handles of the balloon’s wicker basket as the pilot was maneuvering, but was lifted into the air as the balloon rose again.
The ground crew member sustained major injuries when he fell to the ground from a height of about 7m.
The investigation found that neither the county government nor manufacturer stipulated standardized operating procedures on how to the direct the balloon, so ground crew simply followed their instincts to decide when to let go of the basket.
Investigators also determined that two ground crew members decided to move the balloon without waiting for the rest of the ground crew to arrive.
The pilot and the ground crew did not discuss in advance how to move the balloon, the report said.
The pilot was found to have failed to inform the ground crew to stand clear of the basket when he was about to add hot air to the balloon to rise high enough to clear the nearby betel nut trees.
Seeing the balloon was about to rise again, one ground crew member pulled his hands away from the basket, but did not tell his partner as he did so. The other ground crew member did not immediately let go of the basket even after his feet left the ground. He eventually let go after the basket was several meters up in the air.
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